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Kangaroo Spotting's Dawn Rieniets discovers Starting Blocks

Have you ever gotten in trouble with a Kindergarten teacher? What about as an adult? I have. Teachers are incredible but discipline is part of their job and they take it seriously when you don’t do your homework.

Let me introduce you to Starting Blocks so you won’t end up in the naughty corner.

I got a panicked text message from my friend Jackie one afternoon;

“Hey Dawn, so I’ve been on the phone with the Council and apparently we are really late with our applications for four-year-old kinder!”

Something prompted Jac to make a phone call and enquire about her son’s four-year-old kindergarten enrollment. An ex-pat like myself, she has zero experience dealing with early childhood education in Australia.

Jac got reprimanded as if she were the student. Applications opened 12 months ago and we had not submitted ours. It’s not like we missed the actual deadline but these people gave us the impression that getting into Kinder was like the Hunger Games (and we had already lost).

Over the phone, the council worker said to her: “Don’t you have any other Mum friends who could have informed you?”

Um, yes lady, yes we do. And none of them submitted their forms either because we are all first-time Mums and had no idea this situation was so ‘urgent.’

Two years ago, maternal and child health nurse handed me a kinder application at our two-year-old check up. At the time, having a four-year-old seemed like an abstract concept. I half-filled-out form and (foolishly) stashed it in my office.

Children hands painted

Time To Get Onto Starting Blocks

I explained everything to my Aussie husband, who was equally confused, he attended a one-room schoolhouse in the country- no bureaucracy involved. He researched and discovered there were kinder inspections happening in our area on the weekend. We (naively) decided to check out the schools, decide on our top 3 choices, then submit the form on Monday.

Apparently, this plan was a big, fat fail. How did I learn this? By getting scolded by every single Kindy teacher we bumped into at the inspections.

“You’re not here for her are you?” They asked referring to our daughter, “You’ve applied already, haven’t you?”

“She’s my first kiddo and I’m new to the Australian system,” I would answer, playing up the ex-pat card as much as possible, “they have to take her somewhere right?” #charm

“No, they do not!” One particular school one teacher answered.

“Isn’t it the law that children have to attend school?” I asked.

“Well yes but you might not get into any schools,”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They could send her all the way across town to X School,”  (‘X school’ is on the wrong side of the tracks but closest to our house and my first choice.)

I couldn’t believe the judgment, the stigma, the urgency, and felt completely out of my depth. This is just 4-year-old Kinder, what must high-school applications be like? I needed to get a clue. Fast.

Starting Blocks will be your tutor if you need to be schooled about early childhood education in Australia.

Did you know early education includes at home and other child care options, and kinder? The user-friendly SB website is intuitive, thank goodness.  Punch in your postcode and you can see all the early childhood ed centres in your area. In mine, there are one hundred thirty-two. I can’t imagine searching 132 individual websites. Ain’t no Mumma got time for that.

Early Childhood Education In Australia

I wish the Starting Blocks organisation existed three-and-a-half years ago when I was looking for an early childhood education and care service for my daughter. It would have saved me shooting off emails to the list childcare centres my MCH nurse gave me, some of which were irrelevant to our needs. I didn’t even know the difference between occasional care and long day care at the time.

The site was born out of a demand from parents, showing that they wanted all early education information in one place. They asked for easy-to-understand language, free from condescension. Just facts. Not only can I check the distance of each centre from my home but I can see how each one rates according to the National Quality Standard. I can even shortlist my favourites to come back to later.

Educator and child painting

It’s important to note that early childhood education means everything your child learns from birth to age 5. Along with childcare and school info, you can learn about your child’s developmental milestones and find tips on how to start them learning right at home. From now on, I’m going to let Starting Blocks educate me on how to stay out of trouble.

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